Jan 9 - 15, 20

The fisheries sector, although small, is an important economic subsector of agriculture, which contributes about one per cent to the country's GDP, equivalent to 3.7 per cent of the agriculture sector. It provides employment to about 0.4 million people constituting one per cent of the country's total labor force.

It has been estimated that about 400,000 fishermen and their families are directly dependent upon the fisheries for their livelihood whereas about 600,000 are involved in the ancillary industries.

Fisheries sector plays a significant role in the food security of the country, as it reduces the existing pressure on demand for mutton, beef, and poultry meat.

Fish farming is practiced in the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provinces on a limited scale, where species such as trout, common carp, grass carp, silver carp, and other carp species have been introduced.

During July-March 2010-11, the total marine and inland fish production was estimated at 936,882 metric tons (marine 672,602 metric tons) and the remaining catch come from inland waters, indicating an increase of 1.2 per cent over July-March 2009-10 in which the production was estimated at 925,755 metric tons (marine 667,782 and the remaining inland).

Fish is a healthy food, low in calories and cholesterol levels but rich in protein. This has led to a dramatic increase in the consumption of fish and its products.

Worldwide, consumers are driving changes in the agriculture and food sector. Rising consumer income, changing demographics and lifestyles, and shifting preferences due to new information about the links between diet and health, contribute to new demands for foods.

Health experts say the people who take more intake of seafood remain healthier than grain users, as one ounce of seafood is equivalent to six ounces of the grains. In the fish producing countries, fisheries and aquaculture are the important source of food, employment, and revenue and it also minimizes pressure on land.

Fishing is the most important economic activity in the villages and towns along the coast in Pakistan. It has contributed significantly to rural development. This is largely due to the opportunities it offers for employment (part time and full-time), which help in sustaining peasant and fishermen in rural areas, reducing the drift of population to urban centers.

Employment opportunities generated through aquaculture development, including production, processing, transport, and marketing, can be expected to control to some extent the rural-urban divide.

There are about 200 species of fish in Pakistan but out of them only 35 have commercial values such as Palla, Rohu, Dahi, Mori, Thaila, Mundha/Shakur, Grass carp, Silver carp, Common carp (Gulfam), Khagga, Seengara, Dyo (tilapia), Jarko, Suhni, Jarko, etc. Rohu (Labeo rohita) has a substantial local market; good market size is usually two up to a maximum of three kg.

Factors affecting consumption of fish include freshness of the fish and the supply/demand situation in the market. Best prices are achieved during the winter months.

Local consumers generally prefer freshwater fish over marine fish because of their familiarity with river and inland fish as well as the fresh condition of the product.

Per capita consumption of protein is the lowest in Pakistan due to low availability and mal-distribution of quality proteins. It is only 28.2 grams per day as compared to 113.7 grams in U.S., 111.3 grams in Australia, 102.6 grams in New Zealand and 45.2 grams in Philippines.

The per capita availability of meat in Pakistan is 14.8 kg per annum which is far below the dietary standards recommended by international food agencies. The per capita fish consumption is about 2.0 kg/yr, which is also very low by international standards.

The consumption of inland fish (2000-2008) increased by 76 per cent over the given years in Punjab whereas consumption of fish in Sindh remained almost constant and 94.0 per cent increase was found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 0.59 per cent in Balochistan. Overall, fish consumption increased 11.11 per cent for the period 2000-2008.

Pakistani seafood industry is primarily export-oriented and mainly governed by the requirements of the exporter. The performance of the export sector has been appreciable and export earnings have increased substantially since independence. In 1947, only salted dried products were exported from Pakistan, but now high-grade frozen seafood products as well as live marine animals are exported too.

During 2010-11 (July-March), a total of 86,680 metric tons of fish and fishery products were exported generating $197.3 million. Major seafood buyers are China, UAE, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Middle East, and Sri Lanka.

The marketing chain for fish is more or less similar to those of other agricultural commodities. Products are sold into the market to wholesalers and then retailers and end-consumers through agents working on commission basis.

Inland fish tend to be marketed either at the farm gate, through middlemen or during open auction where ice-packed fish sent to fish markets after harvest, were sold.

Buyers can be general public, retailers, wholesalers, agents for processing plants or exporters.

Karachi Fish Harbor is the biggest and oldest fish harbor in the country, being used by all categories of fishing boats. The harbor was designed to cater for about 1000 fishing boats, but currently more than 4000 fishing boats are based there, making it heavily congested. At present, it caters for the needs of 7080 percent of the local fishing fleet.

Fish markets are very common in Sindh and at selected locations in Punjab. All markets are under the control of the local administrations. Most fish markets have inadequate facilities. Usually, they lack cold storage facilities, have poor hygienic conditions and inadequate communication links, etc.

In spite of enormous potential, the inland fishery is facing a fall in its production level over the last several years. Till late 90s, inland fishery was a reliable source of income for millions of fishermen. Absence of pro-fishermen policies, notorious contract system, lack of investment, insufficient government support, informal credit channels, poor market facilities and degradation of water quality in rivers, ponds and lakes and low technical know-how among officials of fisheries department are serious bottlenecks in the growth of the inland fisheries.

A large number of fishermen have been rendered jobless in Shahdadkot, Sukkur, Khairpur, Larkana, Thatta and Badin districts. There are also problems on marketing side of fisheries like wide price fluctuations, delayed payments by commission agent, relatively high transportation costs, and lack of knowledge on actual market conditions.

Fisheries is an important natural resource of Pakistan. There is potential for development of this sector.

The ministry of food and agriculture has developed a policy framework and strategy for the development of fisheries and aquaculture in the country. Moreover, the government has established several fish hatcheries and training facilities for fish farmers. Six large reservoirs have been created in the past four decades through the construction of dams and barrages across rivers, which provide about 250000 ha. for fish production. In addition, there are several smaller reservoirs, which are helpful for fish production.

In addition, the government is taking other steps to improve fisheries sector, which include strengthening of extension services, introduction of new fishing methodologies, increased production through aquaculture, development of value added products, enhancement of per capita consumption of fish and up gradation of socioeconomic conditions of the fishermen's community.

For the improvement of existing marketing system, it is also necessary that the government should provide proper places for the wholesale fish markets for facilitating proper handling of fish. Price variation should be stabilized through monitoring of demand and supply. Efforts should also be focused to lower down the commission fee to a reasonable level for facilitating the marketing functions. In addition, surveillance mechanism should be strengthened to ensure implementation of legally allowed commission charged by agents in wholesale market.